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Crucially, the Muslim Association of Britain and its most prominent spokesman, Dr. Azzam Tamimi, now run the Finsbury Park mosque for which Sheikh Abu Hamza was previously responsible. Abu Hamza may be behind bars, and his assets may, at last, have been
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effectively frozen, but the mosque from which he preached hatred is now under the control of a man who was responsible for praising suicide bombing, and who has said that the state of Israel will eventually be destroyed and replaced by an Islamic state. The Government allowed that to happen on their watch, and they also allowed the Muslim Association of Britain to play a key role in the Government’s own watchdog body for mosques, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board. How can we accept the Government’s claims that they take terrorism seriously when they are putting foxes in charge of the chicken coop?

I mentioned Hamas. Following brave reporting by John Ware, the investigative reporter who works for “Panorama”, one charity in this country was identified as having direct links with Hamas and terrorist fundraising. That charity is Interpal, which had been investigated by the Charity Commission. However, John Ware’s report revealed new, troubling details, including the fact that one of Interpal’s trustees, Mr. Ibrahim Hewitt, was appointed by the Government to their “Preventing Extremism Together” taskforce. Mr. Ware and others have asked the Charity Commission to look again at Interpal’s operation, and the operation of other charities that are linked with terrorism.

We await a comprehensive report—the Chancellor has promised it three times, but he has still not delivered it—that assesses the way in which charities have been used as a shield to promote terrorist financing and fundraising. Will the Minister ensure that, when the report is eventually published, the Charity Commission is given new powers to investigate proactively groups that spread terror and proselytise for extremism, under the cloak of charitable activity?

To be fair to the Government, two charities have been interdicted following action by the Treasury: Sanabel and al-Haramain. Those two charities are significant, because both are Saudi-based. In the United States Senate, the senior senator for New York, the democrat Charles Schumer, pointed out that Saudi-sponsored activity was responsible for the hijacking of moderate Islam and the spread of fundamentalist doctrine in schools, mosques and prisons. In a submission to the US Senate, Steven Emerson has pointed out the way in which organisations use the cloak of charitable activity to proselytise for an extremist agenda. In many cases, they choose to work through the direct funding of mosques.

There are some 1,600 mosques in Britain, most of them exemplary houses of instruction that provide spiritual nourishment to our fellow citizens, and that teach them in a tradition that all of us would think admirable. However, there are mosques—some with direct relationships with Saudi Arabia—that do not cleave to the moderate mainstream path taken by the majority of British Muslims. I shall mention two of them. One subject of concern is the East London mosque, which is one of the largest in Britain. Its president, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, is the chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain, but the speaker invited to open the mosque, Sheikh al-Sudais, had preached sermons in his native Saudi Arabia in which he described Jewish people as pigs and monkeys. He has called Hindus idol-worshippers to whom it would be wrong to speak sweetly. That is an example of Saudi influence raising profound concerns.

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An even more profound concern arises in connection with the plans, in east London, for the erection of the largest mosque—indeed, the largest house of worship—in the country. It is intended to accommodate between 40,000 and 70,000 worshippers, and it is estimated that it will cost between £100 million and £300 million. The mosque, which is being built by an organisation called Tablighi Jamaat, raises profound concerns, not least because that organisation has been described by French intelligence as an “antechamber of fundamentalism”. Two of the 7/7 bombers had direct links with the Tablighi Jamaat mosque in Dewsbury. Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber, had links with the organisation, as did John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. How can an organisation that, according to the Charity Commission, records an income of just £500,000 a year, afford to build a mosque that will cost anything between £100 million and £300 million?

It is my contention that we need a thorough and bipartisan investigation by the House into the foreign funding of extremism in this country. We can learn a lot from the United States, and the way in which the Senate used its investigative tools to work out exactly how a noble religion is being subverted by extremists. I am sure that the Chancellor is sincere in his determination to combat terrorism and root out the extremism that sustains it, but unless he shows a greater degree of urgency in dealing with the problem, and a greater attention to detail when matters are brought before Ministers, and unless he empowers the Charity Commission and other agencies to use proactive investigatory powers, I am afraid that we will always be on the back foot in one of the most vital battles of our time.

6.26 pm

Jon Cruddas (Dagenham) (Lab): By contrast with the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), in this Queen’s Speech debate I want to contest the terms of our debate on security. I will talk about economic elements affecting security and insecurity in communities such as mine. I want to discuss whether the new, independent statistical system will give us a new entry point into issues such as the massive demographic change in poorer parts of urban communities. That change is driven by movements of people, especially A8 European nationals. My comments will be in contrast to the calibration of the security agenda in the Queen’s Speech, which is driven by the terror agenda, migration, and issues to do with criminality.

Anyone who went to my constituency and asked about security and insecurity would get stuck into three issues straight away. The first is housing insecurity and pressures on the demand for low-cost social housing units. The second is labour market insecurities, and in particular the perceived race to the bottom caused by the deregulation of labour markets, and driven by patterns of migration. The third is access to quality health care, partly as a consequence of primary care cuts. However, the overriding element contributing to insecurity is the community’s inability to comprehend the sheer velocity of change caused by patterns of migration to our borough. That raises big issues of public policy, resource allocation and the economics of the Queen’s Speech, as set out today.

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I am interested in the independent statistical system, and I am keen to raise a few issues on class, migration and race. I regularly ask the Office for National Statistics what the population of my borough is, and it regularly tells me that it is 164,000, and has been since 2001. Our borough has the lowest-cost housing in Greater London, and as a consequence it exerts a magnetic pull, in terms of migration within the city’s boundaries. In addition—this is a classic hallmark of patterns of migration to cities—migrant communities have moved into the lowest-cost housing market in search of low-cost housing. The cumulative effect is that the population is growing dramatically, but that occurs off the radar of public policy-making, which remains attached to an increasingly out-of-date census formula.

The only statistical series that begin to catch such movements of people are the education rolls. From 2003 until 2005-06, the story shows that the white population in our community was dropping by about 3 or 4 per cent. a year. If there was a pro rata effect across the whole borough, whose population is between 160,000 and 170,000, the change in ethnicity—from white, indigenous English to black African families—would be between 4,000 and 5,000. Analysis of the education rolls shows an expansion in the head count of the population, too.

There are massive movements of people in terms of both the qualitative make-up of the community and the total head count, yet the state is attached to a census formula that gives a completely different picture of the communities we represent. That has huge implications in communities such as mine, where there are enduring inequalities in health and access to public services, as well as long-term legacies owing to poverty and social immobility. The population is growing faster in real terms than the state is refinancing public services. As a consequence, we can make a strong case that things are in decline in real terms, because the social wage is in decline, especially when analysed alongside the effects of patterns of migration and labour market deregulation.

It will be interesting to see whether the independent statistical system will be able to grapple with such issues in future. I realise that there are the beginnings of a central locus of analysis in relation to the future comprehensive spending review, but I want to throw out a few questions about how we can reconcile that with the real-time demographic picture, especially in the poorer urban communities that take the strain of massive population flows. How can we adjust public policy making so that we go with the grain of those movements rather than simply offering diminishing returns in our understanding of, and investment in, those communities, because of the increasing rupture between the formal apparatus of state decision making and the reality of population flows?

ONS analysis shows that the rate of population growth at present is the fastest since the 1960s, despite residents leaving at record levels. By June 2005, the population of the UK was about 60.2 million; in the preceding year, growth was 0.6 per cent., or 375,000 net. In cities such as London, the poorest communities take the strain of such increases. The global challenge in respect of migration posed in the Queen’s Speech is
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to deal with those issues in a public policy agenda that explicitly tries to confront patterns of inequality and the problems of social cohesion. Only on the basis of modern, real-time demography can we begin to deal with such issues through investment in education or health, or helping local authorities in their strategy for managing changes in the community to ensure social cohesion.

I shall give some examples of the effects of labour market movements to show why such policies would be important in helping communities such as mine. As I said, there has been a massive change in the qualitative make-up of the population, as well as the total number. Many new residents are employed by employment agencies, which has caused real pressures at the bottom of the labour market. At one of my surgeries a few weeks ago, the first case involved some residents who came to see me about east European gang workers being paid £15 a day on a public contract. As that is substantially below the minimum wage, they were rightly concerned about the consequential effects on broader labour market conditions in the area.

The fifth case involved a roofer whose hourly wage rate had dropped £2.50 in six months. The penultimate case that night was a guy who wanted to know what I could do about the shed opposite his house. I found out that the person had put a cooker in the shed at the bottom of his garden and rented it out to eight east European guys who were hot-bedding in it. They were in a labour gang employed on contracts in the local community.

I raise those issues to show how demographic movements have consequential effects on other forms of economic activity in communities such as mine, especially in the labour market. Putting that alongside the consumption of public services can create real, material tensions in respect of the allocation of resources and labour market competition in some of the more challenging parts of cities such as London.

Such material conditions account for part of the rise of the far right, which seeks to pit community against community. However, the real issue is whether a mature debate on the Queen’s Speech and the Government’s economic strategy can actually build a real-time demographic picture of communities such as mine, and offer both resource allocation solutions that anticipate population movements and a labour market strategy that stops the contemporary race to the bottom, which creates and fuels real tensions.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk talked about the temporary workers directive and raised concerns about the blocking minority in Brussels, he was right on the money. The type of policy remedy that I suggested is critical to supply different footings for the labour market economy to neutralise the seductive messages of the far right, which argues that competition at the bottom of the labour market is racialising the community owing to the threat posed by A8 migrants. I am, of course, aware of some of the debates in the European Community about the 12-month threshold, but such policy initiatives are critical if the Government are to be proactive in choking off the downward pressures at the bottom of the labour market, which fuel difficulties and tensions in communities such as mine, creating a breeding-ground for political extremism.

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Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman’s constituency has a different social make-up from mine, but in my constituency there are severe labour shortages, especially in lower-paid jobs in agriculture, which would be hard to fill were we not to have migrant workers from the newer parts of the EU. Prices would rise and productivity would fall if they were no longer able to work in my area. There are social tensions, but how can we address them without losing economic benefits?

Jon Cruddas: I am not arguing against migration; I am trying to stimulate debate about the role of the state in helping communities to adjust, especially those that take disproportionate strain because they have the longest legacies of poverty and inequality.

The issues are difficult, especially given the velocity of change over the past couple of years, but it cannot be beyond the collective wit of the state to provide remedies—if we acknowledge the issues in the first place. That returns us to questions about the statistical material on which public policy responses are built and the use of contemporary census data to develop a picture that allows us to build appropriate policy remedies for the modern cities and communities that we represent. I do not know whether that is feasible or possible, especially given the sheer speed of change in areas such as mine in global cities such as London, where population movement is extraordinary. I simply raise the issues to inform debate when we discuss the remit of the statistical machinery—the issues it is trying to confront and the solutions it is trying to provide. That is not necessarily beyond the capacity of the state, even though I do not underestimate the significance of the problems.

We have to be prepared to deal with the problems and confront some of the material conditions, such as the concerns in my community that demographic changes are occurring in a zero-sum game in terms of resource allocation. Unless we can create a more positive-sum environment and remove material concerns about resource allocation, we shall not be able materially to deal with the far right causes that are so profound in communities such as mine. I wanted to raise those issues so that we can return to them at a later date.

6.40 pm

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): It is a genuine pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas). From earlier exchanges in a different context this year, I well know the knowledge and insight that he brings to his own area, particularly in respect of the pernicious activities of the far right. That was acknowledged recently when one of The Spectator awards went in his direction, largely because of the quality of insight and personal courage that he brought to his activities, which was very much on display again this evening. As he has had one happy competitive moment of late, who knows, he might have another in due course. We shall watch with interest and wish him well. That, however, is certainly outwith the remit of the Queen’s Speech, so I shall not stray on to it.

As I listened to the opening exchanges with the Chancellor earlier this afternoon, I reflected on the fact that what has generally been regarded as a not overly
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heavy Queen’s Speech this year leaves a fair amount of flexibility for changes at the top of the Government during this parliamentary Session. My mind could not help but go back to discussions that the Prime Minister and I have had, at his behest, over the past few years. The Prime Minister tried to dissuade me from Liberal Democrat support for a referendum on the single European currency, which he thought was a daft idea. When that was put on the shelf, he tried to dissuade me from Liberal Democrat support for a referendum on the proposed new European constitution. At that time, I was told, there was no way either Schröder or Chirac would touch such proposition with a bargepole, yet, lo and behold, a few weeks later they did.

It was pointed out that advance announcements from the Government were destabilising as they led to paralysis. The irony was that the Prime Minister’s somewhat premature decision on the night of the Hartlepool by-election to tell the country that he did not intend to be around, even if he won the general election, itself generated a fair amount of paralysis, which will be overcome only when the change takes place.

In the context of that transition, I want to put one or two pleas to the likely next head of the Government, the present Chancellor, in the light of the proposals in the Queen’s Speech. We hope that he will look at a few things afresh if he takes over the helm of government, not least the social justice agenda.

There has been overall acknowledgement in some of the less heated moments of today’s debate that over a remarkable decade in office and fairly benign macroeconomic circumstances, some credit is due to the Chancellor for helping to influence that—

Mr. Devine: Come and join us!

Mr. Kennedy: Certainly not; I am very happy where I am.

Leaving aside the small issue of the colossal cost of Iraq—I do not intend to address that this evening, having done so only recently—the Chancellor has been spared, as we have been spared, some of the big economic shocks that derailed previous Labour and Conservative Governments. Yes, the oil price has been a difficulty, but we have not had a devaluation. Yes, conflict has cost the country a great deal of money, but overall the economy has been quite benign, comparatively speaking, and quite successful. Against that backdrop, we can have a sensible debate, even if I notice that Lord Rees-Mogg has turned his attention in his column today to what we do when there is a collapse in the housing market. I have not studied his article in detail, but if that is the force of his argument and if he is predicting that, the Chancellor can probably be well assured—given the predictive qualities of that column over many years on many issues—that it is not going to happen.

Given the quite encouraging economic backdrops and the Chancellor’s good intentions for social justice—I do not deny his good intentions on these broad policy strata—there have nevertheless been many disappointments. Without any shadow of a doubt, one such is the continuing problem of tuition fees and the disincentive effect that common sense suggests it must be having on the aspirations of some young people from lower income backgrounds who want to go on to
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tertiary education. What I find so ironic is that even when Ministers have justified their policy for England and Wales, they have readily acknowledged that they have not begun to attack the broader funding dilemmas of the UK university sector as a whole, which were well touched on by the chairman of the Conservative policy review, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). It seems to me that we are not solving the big problem, while loading in many disincentives for people who cannot be helped. I hope that in the different devolved context, the Chancellor might yet come to see the merits of the policy in Scotland. Indeed, my party colleagues are now pledging in the context of next May’s elections to take the more generous policy even further forward, as it acts well.

My second plea relates to some of the ironies of social policy affecting our older citizens. The demography is such that we know that we now have a more active older citizenry, yet the complexities of the operation of pension policy and tax and benefits policy mean that the physical well-being and good will of old people is not being utilised as much as it could be. As we look to developments in social policy for the rest of this Parliament, I hope that we will take account of the opportunities that exist. It seems a shame that greater social flexibility does not lead to more flexibility whereby older people in their 50s and 60s may dip in and out of the labour market. Perhaps they no longer want or have to work full-time, but want to work part-time without the system operating against their interests. Much more could be done.

Over a number of years, Government and parliamentary rhetoric from all parties has seemed to encourage use of the experience that older people bring to the labour market, but what else are we doing? We seem to be presiding over the wholesale demolition of local sub-post offices, and for which group of people does that cause the most anxiety? What disincentive is that for active citizens who do not have the access that they would wish to enjoy to a wide range of services? More imaginative policies could help, but they are not adequately dealt with in the Queen’s Speech.

At the other end of the age spectrum, the Government have pledged to look again at the system of child support. I am sure that we are all often or occasionally asked the question of what vote we most regret having cast during our time in Parliament. In my case, it is a vote that I never cast—none of us did. There was an all-party agreement that the principle behind the establishment of the Child Support Agency was a good one. Without any rigour being brought to bear on the matter, we ended up with something that entered into the realms of retrospection and became more of a cash cow for the Treasury, rather than tackling what it was supposed to tackle—the social injustice of, mainly, men not being around and failing to live up to their financial responsibilities to the women and children whom they had probably walked away from. It was a terrible error in which all three UK parties were complicit, and it has gone on under successive Governments.

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